Saturday, June 23, 2007

How do undergraduate analyst interviews differ from MBA associate interviews?

How do undergraduate analyst interviews differ from MBA associate interviews?
According to our insiders, the questions themselves aren’t significantly different
between the two groups (with the possible exception of the technical category,
which we’ll explain in greater detail later). Whether you’re interviewing as an
analyst or an associate hopeful, the general interviewing philosophy is the same:
Your interviewers will be examining your past performance for indicators of
future success.
Nonetheless, associate interviews definitely reflect the higher level of professional
responsibility and longer time horizon inherent in the associate role. Even
though “direct promotes” (i.e., analysts promoted to associate positions without
an MBA) are perhaps more common now than they’ve been in the past, banks
still expect that the vast majority of analysts will “graduate” from their 2- or
3-year program and go on to business school or pursue career opportunities
outside of banking. Associate candidates, on the other hand, are expected to
become long-term bankers. Though they often work the same grueling hours as
their analyst counterparts, associates typically make proportionally greater lifestyle
sacrifices since they’re more likely to be juggling professional commitments
and family obligations simultaneously.
Technical accuracy, attention to detail, and quantitative aptitude are of critical
importance to both analysts and associates, but associates are also expected to
develop a big-picture perspective on their work, as well as a comprehensive
understanding of how the analysis being performed addresses the client’s most
Interview Roadmap
pressing strategic and corporate financial needs. While analysts spend much of
their time building presentations, associates spend a greater proportion of their
time determining what materials should go into the presentation to begin with,
and how the “story” of the presentation should flow. Unlike analysts, associates
will often speak at client meetings and will be expected to build relationships
with the client’s senior management.
When you’re interviewing for an analyst spot, your interviewers have relatively
few data points to consider when they’re assessing how well you’re likely to
perform on the job. Because analyst candidates have little to no full-time work
experience on their resumes, recruiters focus on academic achievement,
extracurricular involvement, and the quality of candidates’ part-time work or
summer internships. It’s also important to remember that getting hired as an
undergraduate analyst is based more on intangibles than any other position in
the bank. Those of you who can demonstrate an understanding and real
enthusiasm for the job, attention to detail, a team-oriented sensibility, and a
humble eagerness to follow directions may be way ahead of your peers who
took accounting 4 years straight. In short, attitude counts for far more than
aptitude at the analyst level, and your proven ability to handle a considerable
amount and high standard of work is more important than the direct relevance
of your internship or academic major.
That said, recruiters know all too well that many undergraduate candidates
don’t have a clue what investment banks do and have a smaller network of
former classmates and colleagues to consult about the job than their counterparts
in MBA programs. As such, undergraduates (particularly those without a
summer banking internship under their belts) are much more likely to confront
questions about the role of an investment bank and the specific responsibilities
Interview Roadmap
of an analyst. Likewise, interviewers are much more likely to hone in on
whether candidates truly understand the lifestyle sacrifices that the job requires
and whether they are prepared to prioritize career demands over personal
commitments. Interviewers focus primarily on time management and multitasking
ability rather than people management, since investment banking
analysts must manage hefty workloads on multiple transactions but rarely
assume team leadership responsibility.
Although many senior bankers generally believe that analysts should be “seen
and not heard” (and many live in perpetual fear of what an analyst might say to
a CEO if left unsupervised), interviewers will still place a premium on candidates’
ability to demonstrate a high level of maturity and to speak clearly and
articulately on a range of topics.
MBAs and Experienced Candidates
From a recruiter’s perspective, associate-level hiring decisions are considerably
more difficult than those at the analyst level because MBA candidates are typically
more polished and sophisticated than undergraduate hopefuls. As one insider says,
“It’s substantially more difficult to distinguish between the person who’s really
committed to becoming a banker and the person who just interviews really well.”
If you’re an associate candidate, your past academic experience is still relevant, but
less important than past work experience. While your undergraduate studies, GPA,
GMATs, and SATs matter, your work experience, the reputation of the business
school you attended, and your potential to become a long-term asset to the firm
are far more important. If you’re enrolled in a top MBA program, recruiters know
that you have unlimited access to classmates and business school alumni who can
give you first-hand accounts of both the job in general and the culture of
individual firms. As such, they expect that you’ll be reasonably well informed
about the nature of the associate role and the lifestyle sacrifices required.
Interview Roadmap
Instead of asking you to describe the role of an investment bank or outline
what you think your day-to-day responsibilities will include, interviewers will
generally zero in on your past work experience. For former analysts, this may
include a granular discussion of the transactions you’ve worked on in the past:
the underlying assumptions, valuation techniques, and the outcome of each deal
on which you worked. For career changers, this means describing your professional
experience in a way that implies you’d flourish in banking and offering
credible reasons for pursuing a banking career instead of returning to your
former career path.
Regardless of your professional background, you should expect questions
about your management style and leadership aptitude. As an associate, you’ll
be expected to manage not only projects and processes, but people as well:
internal and external team members, clients, and analysts on each of your deal
teams. Therefore, interviewers will be assessing whether you can inspire
confidence among clients and productivity among junior bankers. If you’ve
historically managed people through brute intimidation tactics and a series of
to-do lists, recruiters will be wary of your ability to adapt to an intensely teamdriven
work environment. Come prepared to discuss the performance reviews
you’ve garnered in the past and the specific steps you’ve taken toward professional
self-improvement. In addition, you should be ready to demonstrate that
you’re a virtual paragon of self-sufficiency, excellent judgment, and good
common sense. Associates are expected to manage transaction processes with
little direct supervision or senior-level hand-holding; the more you can
convince your interviewer that you’ve worked independently in the past, the
better your chances of securing an offer

1 comment:

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